New pencils, mark-free textbooks, and clean spiral notebooks typically mark the start of a new semester for college students. The excitement of another beginning is obviously shared throughout campus as students and teachers alike await a possibly successful semester. But what makes a semester successful, and how does one ensure it will be successful? These are questions all teachers experiment with and according to Elaine Showalter, the answer starts with the very first day of class. “In the real world of the semester, the first class offers a never-to-be-recaptured moment of excitement and opportunity. This is your chance to preview the best material you have” (46). The “you” she is speaking to is, of course, the teacher but the student especially benefits from this mode of pedagogy.
Although, the title to this post claims to get rid of syllabus day entirely, I (and Showalter) am only suggesting to further its significance by not ending class early with just syllabus the material. Classroom and student expectations are an absolute must when it comes to first day material, but what if the literature class expanded beyond syllabus day? By expanding I mean to say, include the planned material for the course. Start reading a book as a class, ask students what they want out of the course, or even engage in an activity that incorporates the novels at hand. It goes without saying that some teachers have already implemented this kind of approach, but I have definitely taken classes where the syllabus was read out loud and then the students were sent home for the day. How does that get students eager to learn? I, and many critics, argue that it is a simple mistake that can easily be changed.
Showalter, Elaine. Teaching Literature. Indianapolis: John Wiley & Sons, 2003. Print.
Questions to Consider:
If, according to Showalter, getting students excited about learning is not entirely up to the teacher, how else can students be encouraged?
How could we incorporate Lynda Barry’s methods into the first day in a literature classroom?